Ambiguity and Choice in Public Policy

cover art
208 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878401352 (0878401350)

July 2003
LC: 2003004676

American Governance and Public Policy series


Table of Contents

Ambiguity and Choice in Public Policy
Political Decision Making in Modern Democracies
Nikolaos Zahariadis
Zahariadis offers a theory that explains policymaking when "ambiguity" is present—a state in which there are many ways, often irreconcilable, of thinking about an issue. Expanding and extending John Kingdon's influential "multiple streams" model that explains agenda setting, Zahariadis argues that manipulation, the bending of ideas, process, and beliefs to get what you want out of the policy process, is the key to understanding the dynamics of policymaking in conditions of ambiguity. He takes one of the major theories of public policy to the next step in three different ways: he extends it to a different form of government (parliamentary democracies, where Kingdon looked only at what he called the United States's presidential "organized anarchy" form of government); he examines the entire policy formation process, not just agenda setting; and he applies it to foreign as well as domestic policy.

This book combines theory with cases to illuminate policymaking in a variety of modern democracies. The cases cover economic policymaking in Britain, France, and Germany, foreign policymaking in Greece, all compared to the U.S. (where the model was first developed), and an innovative computer simulation of the policy process.
Nikolaos Zahariadis is professor and director of the political science program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a Ron B. Casey Fellow, and former President of the International Studies Association-South. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Perspectives in International Economy.
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors
"A lucid and penetrating account of how policy entrepreneurs create meaning and shape outcomes amidst the numerous ambiguities of the policy making environment. The book breaks new ground by extending the application of a policy streams approach across types of democratic systems, to different phases of the policy process, and across policy areas, both domestic and foreign."—Mitchell P. Smith, assistant professor, Department of Political Science and School of International and Area Studies, The University of Oklahoma

"An important contribution to the literature, a very impressive piece of work. Comparative and international relations scholars as well as students of public policy in the United States should read this book and consider its implications seriously. It's a fine combination of theory-building and careful case-oriented empirical observation."—Frank R. Baumgartner, professor of political science, The Pennsylvania State University

"Nikolaos Zahariadis extends, in a thorough and effective manner, the theory of choice under ambiguity to parliamentary democracies. The book is a model of clarity even if its focus is disorder, and it brings a much-needed comparative perspective to the study of policy choice."—Bryan D. Jones, Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor of American Politics, University of Washington

Table of Contents
1. Multiple Streams and Public Policy

2. Privatization in Britain and France

3. Ideas and Policy Change in Britain and Germany

4. Windows of Opportunity and the Choice to Sell British Rail

5. Symbols, Framing, and Manipulation in Greek Foreign Policy

6. Structure and Performance in a Multiple Streams Computer Simulation

7. Ambiguity and Policy Choice